Trolling Through the Plaza Friday Night
Last Friday the Casa de Cultura sponsored a Folklorico performance for the Etzatlan community. A stage dominated one corner of the square, with rows of folding chairs for the audience. Dance troups, some local, some from surrounding towns, others who had traveled great distances, performed traditional dances.
Ah, the regalia. Miles of calico and satin, skirts and flounces, blouses and scarves. Herds of cowhides stitched into vests and pants and boots. The men handsome in elegant sombreros. The women’s natural grace enhanced with flowers in their hair, lacy fans for flirting; all part of the dance.
The Plaza is adjacent to the Cathedral. Generally, after evening Mass, the Plaza fills with families out to enjoy the evening. Around the perimeter of the tree-lined Plaza, vendors, some with permanent stands, some more mobile, sell tacos, tamales, gorditos, fruit drinks and soda, candy, trinkets, toys and such traditional Mexican fare as pizza.
The Folklorico groups danced on stage until quite late, for me, though not so late for Mexican people. Once the crew dismantled the stage, loaded the chairs and sound and light systems, the real dance began.
Boys strolled in groups one direction while girls walked the circle counter-wise. Each young person is hyper-vigilant, while pretending to ignore the opposite sex, aware of every glance, every nuance of body language. Like birds in the tree branches outside my windows, the youngsters performed an elaborate mating dance, precursor to choosing partners.
Grandmothers and grandfathers, subtle chaperones, sat on the white iron-work benches flanking the “boulevard”, gossiping, doing needlework or whittling, while keeping a wary eye on the young people. Couples committed to one another walked the circle with ease, comfortably holding hands, possibly planning their futures. The very young, once they were fed, played tag and other games around the feet of the strollers.
Lani and I sat on one of the white benches, munched churros hot out of the fat, licked our fingers clean of cinnamon-sugar, and watched people walk by. For a few moments I felt nostalgia for something we in our culture never had, a yearning for I knew not what.
Cruising Main Street on Saturday night in our day was just not the same thing. Crawl up the street five or six blocks, turn around before the railroad crossing, putt-putt down the street and turn again before the road turned off into the countryside. I suppose cruising served a purpose, a primping and showing, fluffing feathers, for those who had cars. Mostly boys.
Not dances in the high school gym, not exactly courting. Girls lined one wall, boys the other. It took less courage for King Arthur’s Knights to slay a dragon, than for a boy to walk the hundred empty miles across the basketball court to risk rejection by the maiden fair.
Football games were too cold. Basketball games might have been a way for girls to meet guys except that basketball tended to heated rivalry. A Harlem girl wouldn’t dare talk with a hated Chinook boy. Ewww, Ick.
Difficult as it was, we still managed to hook up, with or without the watchful eyes of parents.
But I gotta tell you, we missed a lot. A girl can learn worlds about a guy while watching him saunter a few circles around the square.
HDN: Looking out my back door
May 5, 2016